Colorado judge maintains charges for Dane accused in fire

FILE - This undated file photo released by the Costilla County, Colo., Sheriff's Office shows Jesper Joergensen. With no viable option remaining for trying Joergensen, a mentally ill Danish man accused of starting a large Colorado wildfire in 2018, a judge said Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, he will rule next week on whether to dismiss criminal charges against him. (Costilla County Sheriff's Office via AP, file)
FILE - This undated file photo released by the Costilla County, Colo., Sheriff's Office shows Jesper Joergensen. With no viable option remaining for trying Joergensen, a mentally ill Danish man accused of starting a large Colorado wildfire in 2018, a judge said Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, he will rule next week on whether to dismiss criminal charges against him. (Costilla County Sheriff's Office via AP, file)

DENVER – A judge on Friday decided against dropping criminal charges lodged against a mentally ill Danish man accused of starting a large Colorado wildfire that burned 149 homes in 2018.

The decision came after a prosecutor said Jesper Joergensen would not be deported if released from jail because of Biden administration changes to immigration policy.

Fearing that Joergensen could pose a danger if freed, Judge Gregory Lyman instead ordered him sent to the state mental health hospital for evaluation and whether a doctor there might recommend Joergensen be forcibly medicated to treat his delusional disorder.

Lyman acknowledged he was not sure if he had the authority to send Joergensen to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, which has struggled for years to keep up with demand for the evaluations of people accused of crimes.

Earlier this month, Lyman seemed to be leaning toward dismissing the case after Joergensen's psychiatrist in a mental health jail unit indicated he did not think that Joergensen would qualify for forced medication since he does not pose a risk to himself or others while behind bars.

If Joergensen is sent to the state hospital, a doctor there could possibly reach a different conclusion and ask the court for permission to forcibly medicate him.

Aaron Pratt of the state Attorney General's Office told Lyman that Colorado's Office of Behavioral Health had the right to decide where people get mental health treatment.

He also noted there were “practical concerns” in getting people admitted to the Pueblo hospital, which recently resumed taking in new patients following a pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.